Teach Your Children Well

ImageWhat do we teach our children in classrooms and at home? It’s not so much the content I’m referring to, but the message. Is everything in classrooms and at home all about being the best; achieving the most; making money? Or do we teach our children to be happy, kind, thoughtful individuals and productive members of communities and society in general?

The answers vary. I recently spoke to a group of about 30 high school students entering their senior year. I asked them what their parents advise them about when it comes to their future. All of the answers focused on achieving more and making money. Since the session with the students was about business communications as opposed to career goals, I forged forward.

The responses concerned me deeply. I encourage students of all ages to do what they love and love what they do. So many surveys today point to people being unhappy in the workplace. Whether you don’t enjoy your position, your boss, your co-workers, it takes a leap of faith to make changes. I certainly get that; I was pushed to make changes in my professional life. Though I loved what I was doing, changes in management led to personnel changes and layoffs. I was a victim. The forced change has led to a much happier and productive professional life. My second chapter.

Back to students of today. NBC Universal is being sued by two interns who allege they do jobs that they should be paid for. In the broadcast news/entertainment world, interns historically have never been paid. We were thrilled to be allowed into the inner-sanctum to learn from the pros, ask questions, even get a little experience up-close and personal. The internships I had were priceless. It never crossed my mind that I should be paid. Of course I was doing work that perhaps a paid professional could or should be doing; I accepted that the internship was temporary (for a school year or semester) and then I would move on.

Times have certainly changed. The word “entitlement” comes to mind. It seems that some students who are accepted into prestigious internship programs can and do receive compensation. Therefore, across the board many more interns believe they should be paid for getting coffee, looking over peoples’ shoulders, answering phones, doing research and other tasks. Because they were accepted into the program and show up, they deserve money.

What’s next? If and when these interns receive minimum wage will they then gripe they should be paid more? It takes years of life experience to understand that happiness is not tied to money. Sure, it’s great to be able to pay the bills and have a retirement plan, yearly vacation and no money worries. Toiling in an internship and struggling to pay the bills helps mold a person into someone who appreciates what they DO earn and achieve throughout their life. Just having that internship under your belt looks great on your resume. And if you show a great work ethic, ask the right questions and are able to work with the right people, you will be in a great position to earn a job if and when one becomes available. Suing to gain attention or money is NOT the way to impress management.

Encourage students to love what they do; to be humble and productive in the workplace; to ask intelligent questions and be excellent listeners. The money and the position will come once you prove yourself a valuable asset to the organization. Mistakes will be made; but isn’t that how we learn some of our best lessons? Money can’t buy experience, common sense or a good work ethic.

When the Goin’ Gets Tough

When the Goin’ Gets Tough

ImageThe heart of any business or personal success is the team you have working on each and every detail.

Look at the Louisville Cardinals team and how those young men banded together to bring home the Midwest Regional trophy while teammate Kevin Ware was carried off the court after suffering a horrendous broken leg. While teammates convulsed in shock and tears streamed down the faces of thousands who watched Ware’s leg snap, the team pulled it together and rallied to put the lid on the regional championship.

I am working with a team of volunteers from Sustainable Cherry Hill and staff members from Cherry Hill Township to put on for the South Jersey region, the 4th Art Blooms Earth Festival. Everyone has a part to play. Volunteers worked with the township police department on safety and route planning for the family-fun bike ride that opens the festival at 9 a.m. Today, I met with John Martorano of Magnum Computer Recycling to find the easiest site location so visitors to the festival April EF2012_20120428_0327th can bring e-waste for safe recycling and disposal. I worked with the Cherry Hill Food Outreach Council which will have a donation station at the festival for non-perishable foods. One of our volunteers has coordinated the entertainment schedule to include several chorus and dance groups and musicians to perform throughout the event. It’s an amazing experience to work with people and maintain a ‘can-do’ attitude so everyone achieves most of what they hope for.

Attitude is everything when it comes to a project involving many people. To have even one team member who seems to work against the grain, can ruin the experience, if not the event, for everyone. The Louisville Cardinals could have folded after they saw what happened to Kevin Ware. The injured Ware yelled to the team to win the game as he was carried out of the stadium. Some hiccups can threaten any event and lead you down the path of ‘CAN’T-do.’ With the team I am fortunate to be associated with – township and Sustainable Cherry Hill – plus our amazing sponsors and supporters – the Cherry Hill Earth Festival and the family-fun bike ride Saturday, April 27th – will be another step toward helping the community and region focus efforts on sustainability in home, work and play.

Toot Your Own Horn – Brag Without Bragging

A former boss of mine once told me “Brenda, you just don’t toot your own horn enough.” This is a boss I respected immensely – and still do today – for his knowledge of broadcast journalism and his ability  to get to the point, hone and craft talent and be a positive, professional force.

It’s a Noisy World

He was right; I did not toot my horn. I believed my work stood on its own merit and people would see the quality of that work. In today’s fast-paced world, you have to rise above all the noise that is out there. Today’s business world is all about tooting your horn and rising above the din of the junk that should NOT be recognized. The adage – ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ applies today.

How many times have you seen a product, author, business owner, etc. quoted in the media and you wonder HOW did that person or product get so much coverage? Public relations is about tooting your horn in a positive way whenever possible. You can’t sound preachy or as if yours is the only opinion or thought that matter; you need to be credible, knowledgeable and confident in making the pitch.

I’m the best!

Convincing others that you are the expert is also about listening. When you are networking or at some sort of business-related function, how much time do you spend listening to other people’s business conundrums? You should be listening more than 50% of the time. You have to listen  carefully to hear any problems or issues; take notes when possible (or write things down as soon as possible) and connect by letting the person know you get it. That can be the hook; letting the person know you get it without going on about how you solved a problem in the best  – or worse – avoided getting into a similar problem. Responding by saying, “I can hear that your issues are at a critical stage; I have practical solutions and ideas that can help you,” lets the person know you heard what he/she said and you can help. Simply letting someone know YOU are the BEST in your field isn’t about the person and their business problem; a comment like that is all about YOU.

By listening, observing and understanding the depth of my own expertise, I’ve learned how to let people know I can help them. It’s about saying HOW I can help them; how I can take a load off their busy shoulders and how I can be a benefit to their organization for the long haul.

 

Pet Peeve- Reply All; Digital Etiquette Matters

It happens too often; you get an email sent to multiple people setting up a meeting or providing information about something. There’s always one person who hits ‘reply all.’ How many times does that ‘reply all’ message just read “Thanks.” replyallOr worse – is a long message about why they can’t make the meeting because they have to pick their young son up from soccer, then run their daughter to piano lessons, then they have to go food shopping. I hear you yelling, “WHO CARES?” Well, making excuses is another topic; for now, back to the ‘reply all.’

In my business communications class at Rutgers-Camden there are a myriad of topics we discuss. It seems that the ‘reply all’ conundrum is something that continues to be a problem. Why is it that in this age of digital messages many of us can not train ourselves to be more attentive to replying to emails?

Compare this mistake to back in the day when you actually called someone on the phone rather than send an email. Would you just call the person holding the meeting to let them know you couldn’t make it – or would you call everyone involved? well, of course – just the team leader needs to know you couldn’t be there.

How do you stop from accidentally replying to EVERYONE on an email list? Simply breathe; take your time. Pay closer attention to what you are doing. If you are completely rushed – step AWAY from the keyboard. As my mom used to tell me all the time, “Watch what you’re doing.”

This ‘reply all’ problem is complicated when you reply to emails on your Smart phone. Everything is smaller and not exactly change-wp7-email-signaturethe same as your computer keyboard. All the more reason to TAKE-YOUR-TIME. Make a rule of thumb: don’t reply to emails while you are in the car at red lights. WAIT until you have a few moments to concentrate on your digital etiquette.

Another pet peeve: be sure you have a businesslike email signature on your Smart phone, tablet or iPad. Do you really have to advertise that you wrote the message on your Samsung phone? Go into ‘settings’ and set up your email signature properly with your name, title, etc. DELETE the advertisement for the type of phone you have.

Just like when we were little and we were taught to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ it’s time to learn more digital etiquette.